l8o MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE
do not fight the banyan tree; we try to come under its shade.
We do not impeach officials, like the Americans, or burn down
the houses of the rich, like the Bolsheviks. We try to become
their doorkeepers and enjoy their official umbrage.
V. SOCIAL GLASSES
It seems clear, then, that actually there are only two social
classes in China, the yamen class who enjoyed extraterritorial
rights without consular jurisdiction long before the Europeans
came to China, and the non-yamen class who pay the taxes
and obey the law. To put it a little more cruelly, there are
only two classes in China, the top-dog and the under-dog,
who take turns. With their cheerful fatalism, the Chinese
bear this scheme of things quite nobly and well. There are no
established social classes in China, but only different families,
which go up and down according to the vicissitudes of fortune.
There are the lucky yamen families, and there are the less
lucky families, whose sons do not preside in the yamens or
whose daughters do not marry into the yamendom. And no
families stand quite alone. Through marriage, or through
acquaintance, there is hardly a family in China that cannot
find a distant cousin who knows the teacher of the third son
of Mr. Chang whose sister-in-law is the sister of a certain
bureaucrat's wife, which relationship is of extreme value when
it comes to lawsuits.
Yamen families may indeed well be compared again to
banyan trees whose roots cross and recross each other and
spread fanwise, and Chinese society to a banyan tree on a hill.
Through a process of adjustment, they all struggle for a place
in the sun, and they live at peace with each other. Some stand
at a better vantage point than others, and they all protect
each other—"officials protect officials," as the current Chinese
saying goes. The common people are the soil which nourishes
these trees and gives them sustenance and makes them grow.
As Mencius said, when he was defending the distinction
between the gentleman and the common man, "Without the